Our History

The story of the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department began in 1897, just two short years after the Borough of Englewood Cliffs was Incorporated. The newly formed Borough established a fire prevention code, Ordinance #12 on September 18, 1897, “to provide a means for extinguishing fires in the Borough of Englewood Cliffs and fixing appropriations therefore.” This well-minded action on the part of a newly formed Borough laid the groundwork for an institution within Englewood Cliffs that would be dedicated to the safeguarding of lives and property for the centuries that followed.

In 1903, there was a disastrous fire that leveled the Allison Mansion. Though this was a devastating loss for those who were involved, it led a group of civic-minded citizens to act upon the need for fire protection in Englewood Cliffs, whereby they convened in the old Cliff Hall to incept the Fire Department. They contacted members of Coytesville Fire Company (now Company #2 in Fort Lee) and with the information supplied, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department was Incorporated in 1905 as the “Englewood Cliffs Fire Protection Company #1.” That same year, the Borough purchased the very first piece of fire apparatus: a two-wheeled hose carriage, with 500’ of 2 ½” hose, along with a garage to store it. Also that year, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department found its home in a newly built firehouse.

The Englewood Cliffs Fire Department has had a long line of dedicated volunteers, beginning with John Wunsch and Charles Von Wagoner, the very first firefighters in Englewood Cliffs. Gradually, the infrastructure for a complete municipal service was put into place. Large gongs were installed throughout the Borough to sound the alarm when there was a need for the Fire Department to respond to an emergency, inaugurating an age “of wooden engines and iron men.” Though technology and social progress would steer the fire department into new eras of service and capability, these first years established the absolute certainty that the people of the community who volunteer their time and energy to the service of the community are the most necessary component of the organization.

This community-minded consciousness led to a celebrated inauguration of the firehouse on Bayview Avenue in 1917, which was built on land generously donated by the Wunsch family. Also in 1917, “Exempt Certificates” were approved for firefighters by the Borough. This was the beginning of the Englewood Cliffs Firemen’s Exempt Association, which concerned itself with the welfare of the firefighters.

The Englewood Cliffs Fire Department has an extensive lineage of dedicated Chiefs, who headed the department through decades of challenges and successes. In 1918, Frank C. “Pappy” Rose was elected to the position. He had joined the department in 1914, at a time when the rest of the world was gearing up for World War I. Though he had accomplished much for the fire department, one of his most notable contributions was a strong advocacy for the fire department’s members, specifically in championing an increase in insurance coverage. The “Grand Old Man” of the fire department, his concern for his fellow firefighters continued past his tenure as Fire Chief, up until his death in 1962.

In 1920, the Fire Department offered the Borough the use of its firehouse whenever it was needed. This same year, the City of Englewood offered to help the Borough in any emergencies that might arise. For the region, this was perhaps one of the first attempts at an organized mutual aid system among the local communities. This sense of inter-community assistance would culminate in the formation of the East Bergen Mutual Aid Association, comprising ten neighboring towns that automatically assist one another in an emergency when called upon.

Just as the fire service was bolstered by the development of a mutual aid association, it was also strengthened by improvements in technology. In 1925, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department saw a change from hand-drawn fire-fighting apparatus to motorized equipment, with the purchase of a Larrabee pumper truck for $4,000.00. This important piece of equipment would see a long service life of protecting lives and property in the Borough.

Today, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department is composed of nearly forty volunteers and utilizes varying pieces of fire apparatus: EC-1, our new 2017 Pierce Velocity 2000 gpm pumper truck; EC-2, our 2003 Pierce Lance 2000 gpm pumper/rescue truck; EC-3, the 1985 Hahn/Grumman pumper/rescue truck; and EC-Truck, a 1994 Seagrave 105’ Aerial Ladder truck. In addition, our Chief and Assistant Chief have vehicles that allow them to respond directly to the scene of an emergency to establish immediate command of the scene.

In addition to an extensive list of firefighting equipment, that includes Scott Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus air packs, as well as a myriad assortment of rescue and extrication tools, the Englewood Cliffs Fire Department also puts a strong emphasis on training and drilling among the members of the department. This commitment to training and involvement led to the establishment of the Junior Firefighters Auxiliary program by Michael Cioffi and Howard Mann, whereby young people between the ages of sixteen and eighteen can learn about the importance of community involvement and service in the fire department.